With exactly four months to go until Curve Cycling's next big event, the Indian Pacific Wheel Race, kicks off we thought we’d talk about preparation. Many riders on the roster are new to this style of bike packing and multi-day ultra-endurance racing. We get asked, at least a couple of times every day, how riders should prepare. We thought we’d jot down some thoughts.
A lot of inexperienced ultra-endurance racers will focus heavily on the usual cycling training in the lead up to a long bikepacking race. They’ll be keen to discuss their training program and how they’ll build before the event. Solo, unsupported, multi-day races are a little different to the usual bike race though. It’s critical that riders get familiar with their kit. We try to get riders to think about what they want to achieve in the race. Do they want to try to win? Do they want to head out with the goal of simply finishing? The answer will dictate their race strategy and consequently their pack list.
Once you’ve sorted out a rough pack list, it’s critical to build confidence in it. An important part of training is to head out on a multi-day ride, in terrible weather if possible, sleep out, pack up your gear and ride home. It’s only after completing that sort of mini-adventure that you can build confidence in your kit. Plenty of people head out for long day rides but there is no substitute for an overnighter - riding with the extra weight of your kit on your bike takes some getting used to, and you’ll need to be mindful of your pedalling action to avoid achilles, knee and back issues, especially when climbing. The inexperienced ultra-racer tends to be more “jerky” / less fluid on a loaded bike than more experienced racers. An overnight ride also gets you used to dragging yourself out of a less than comfortable sleep and hauling your sore body onto your bike for day two. That’s a skill that could save you a full day throughout a race like the Indian Pacific Wheel Race.
If you can manage it, it’s a good idea to head out for a two-night ride. Again, preferably in terrible weather. Why two nights? It’s so that you have to pack your kit up after night one and then sleep in it again on the second night. It doesn’t take too many nights trying to sleep in a wet sleeping bag to learn the importance of keeping some items in your kit dry. If you just head home after a single night out, you unpack when you get home and never have to deal with poorly packed gear in the field.
You’ll find that with a few overnight rides focused on building confidence in your kit, the training miles come for free.
Of course now is the time to get your race bike sorted as well. Ideally you’ll spend a lot of training time on it, fine tuning the set-up and your pack list in the lead up to the race. What will you be riding for the Indy Pac? There's still time to get yourself a Belgie Spirit race weapon!